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Stoichiometry

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Fire Daemons were, in Minerva Ford's experience, fickle and forgetful. Once it went out, all memory of its existence was lost to the aether, unlike water. Water seemed to have something of an aggregate sentience to it, and a long memory to boot. Why was it that flame lost its memory of the lives it consumed, but water still held every soul that never swam free?

She'd kept a vial of Altiria with her - but it was corked, and unable to converse and share knowledge with her. On the few occasions she did speak with the water, she was unable to glean anything aside from complaints about the size of the container - but any freedom for the liquid meant it would evaporate before it'd be of real use.

So instead, she stuck with her flame.

Gregory, as she'd named it after a while, was the third of its kind -- her previous attempts at "raising" a flame had ended catastrophically. The first time, Gregory I had been lost in use against bandits, and no spark could be recovered. The second Gregory had been lost in a simpler incident, involving a dropped lantern. She'd been forced to extinguish the Daemon before it caught the entire wagon on fire.

This iteration of Gregory was approaching a year old - raised from a spark on the day that damage from Gregory II was repaired. That it was starting to remember names and faces, as well as hold cogent conversation was impressive - but she was still mystified by its ability to learn and share. The flame told her about all of the things it liked -- pressed olive oil, dried leaves, and fish oils were a few of its favorites. It chattered sometimes, asking about the logs that its cousin, the campfire, got in the evening.

"Min, I wanna go out tonight! I wanna taste the woods ‘n the sky ‘n the Gale!"

Before the Magician could respond, the Nobleman at the front of the wagon peeked back.

"Minnie, we're almost t' West Orden. Can y'finish th' inventory when y'got a mo' free from Greggie?"

"Yes, Max~ I'll be sure to finish it~" Minnie chimed, interrupted from her thoughts. She gently tapped Gregory's lamp before she hung the Daemon up. "We'll talk about it soon, little one. Be good, and stay in for now. If anything feels weird, call out, okay?"

"Ohkaaaaay."

She then moved to grab the thick, slightly singed inventory book, and opened a box filled with trinkets and assorted jewelry, and set to work with inventorying their stock.


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Thirty-some-odd years ago, Maximilien Renault had decided that he needed to do something with his life. Though he was a Nobleman, he had not been born within the bounds of any city, and could hear no City Daemons. His family had no great ties to any city or guild, leaving him with only a small fortune and a family name.

For a Nobleman in his position, it was expected that he would become a priest of some sort, praying to Daemons, and listening to nature.

He didn't want to do that. He dreamed of making a name for himself, and came up with a plan to do so. If you traced his family back far enough, you'd find that he was descended from a line of distinguished traders, one of whom married a queen, long ago.

With the money left behind by his parents after their passing, he set out to learn how to craft jewelry that he could actually sell. He then purchased himself a wagon, all in order to set out for life on the ancient trade routes of the Dusk.

For cycles, he dedicated his focus nearly entirely to his goal - and once he'd built up a sizable inventory of work he found that he dearly loved, left for the road.

Unfortunately for Max, being a descendant of merchants did not necessarily mean that he had been granted any special skills in actually making sales.

His first few cycles in the caravan were fraught with struggles - while his craftsmanship was excellent, his expenses often exceeded his income. His work was also often too fancy for the tastes of his clientele, though the occasional Nobleman would purchase a piece or two - which would help stretch finances out a bit. His family's money would not last forever, and he couldn't afford to keep putting money into a venture which cost more than it earned.

He had horses to feed, a wagon to maintain, supplies to purchase… And he supposed he ought to consider food for himself in there, somewhere. He couldn't subsist on handouts from others in the caravan forever. He would eventually go broke.

 


That all changed when he met Minerva.

The Magician had expressed an interest in traveling on the caravan until she reached Vespas, and had been brought to speak with him before everyone needed to start packing up. While knowledge of the Obligation amongst the Cycle-exempt was limited, some knew that a King's cousin's cousin might be able to ‘persuade' a Magician to use their gifts for protection.

As soon as they were introduced, Minnie - as she'd told him to call her - she'd started nosing through his wares.

"You know, these will never sell. They're lovely, but there's just something about them..." she murmured, gently lifting up a necklace and looking it over. The lime-green ring in her dark eyes seemed to glow more brightly as she appraised the item carefully. "Ah! You don't want them to!"

Max couldn't help but bristle slightly as she spoke, watching her examine and set aside several of his favorite pieces.

"That's such a shame… They're quite lovely."

"...If y' wouldn't mind, coulja consider tellin' me more plainly what yer sayin'?" Max managed tersely, unsure as to whether or not he understood what the Magician before him was saying. Had she just subtly insulted his work? It wouldn't have been the first time one had, but usually they avoided contact with Max. He'd always assumed it was because of his place in the cycle.

"Oh! Just that you're way too attached to this. Do you want help? If you give me the commands I ask for, I'll be happy to give a hand." Minnie turned around and beamed at him, holding up one of the pieces he'd created. "Heck, if we break this apart, I could probably recreate it so it'll sell better, if you have sketches."

He hadn't expected her to offer to help.

"I'll consider it."

 


When the wagons stopped for the night, they both set to work. Max was astounded by Minnie's ability to use fire and water in order to quickly melt and re-shape the metal he'd worked so diligently to sculpt before. Her replica needed refinement, but it was close enough to the real piece. There was something about it that felt fundamentally different - and Max hadn't quite felt as attached to it.

Over the next few days on the road, the pair worked through four other pieces -- and when they reached Cresley, Max decided to put them out for purchase.

To his surprise, they finally sold. All five items that they'd destroyed and re-created had sold. He wondered if she was right - maybe he'd wished too hard for his work to be loved and appreciated by the right people, that he'd unwittingly driven buyers away?

After that, it was only a short time until he'd made a proposal: He'd asked her to stay with him as an equal partner in business. If she wanted, she could also defend the caravan, too - but that was up to her.

Minnie had accepted happily. She was just going to Vespas to see the sights, anyway.


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"Miiiiin! Maaaaax! Minmaxmaxmiiiiin! Soooomeboooooooody~! Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeee~!!"

Minnie looked up from her book, clearly annoyed at the Daemon's choice of timing for an outburst. They were in town - most people wouldn't know that nature truly had voices. If Gregory was to be heard, it might cause more than a few whispers.

She'd just spent the night trying to keep Gregory from screaming about bacon after learning of the flavor from the campfire - today, she just wanted to keep her eyes down and not be asked about magic. Her head hurt.

"I got ‘im. Y'wanna handle th' customers?" Max offered with a chuckle and a knowing stare. He'd warned her not to add anything to Gregory from the campfire. Her goal had been to see what knowledge transferred over from one instance of a daemon to another… Not create a petulant flame that begged for smoked bacon.

"It's fine, I've got him. I shouldn'ta let him learn about dinner…" She closed her book and sighed loudly. "What's it I need to do?"

She glanced over at Max, knowingly.

"Use whatever means you need to in order to quiet Gregory down. Don't extinguish the little bugger, please." Max spoke slowly and quietly, carefully choosing his words. "That ‘nuff fer ya?"

Minnie nodded and got up to carry out the Obligation she'd just been given. She paused to look back when she heard a quiet voice ask, "Who's Gregory…?"

"Shoulda been more careful about that…" She muttered to herself, unable to interrupt her current geas for long. Someone overheard him, and she hoped it wasn't another Magician.

As soon as she entered the wagon, she was greeted by a tiny shout from the lantern that hung from one of its bows. Gregory was in as much of a blaze as it could manage - and started to dance when it spotted the Magician.

"MIN!! I! Wanna! See! People!!" Gregory flared up on the last word, shining brightly in its globe. "Pleaaaaaaaaase!"

"Greggie, you need to use your inside voice when we're in town," Minnie warned, her hand glowing slightly as she made a zipping motion across her lips. The Daemon went quiet, and started to whine in her head.

Are you gonna take me outside? It demanded, twirling around on the wick that kept it alive.

"Yes, but you need to be a good fire and stay calm. If you can do that, I'll make sure you get a treat tonight."

Can I be the campfire?! I wanna be the fire! You can give me new oil and burny things for my home while I'm the fire!

Minnie couldn't stifle her laugh as she took the lantern with her. She attached it to her staff and walked back to the stand, where Max was apologizing profusely to a young couple before him.

The extremely nervous young woman briefly locked eyes with Minnie, before gazing down at the ground. It was clear that she was also a Magician, based solely on the teal glow in her eyes. Minnie wondered if things were all right - there were far too many newly-freed Magicians who met with horrid fates these days, now that the Regicide prowled the cities.

"That right 'ere, 's Gregory." Max kept his voice low and pointed at the lantern Minnie now had, and grinned. "Fire Daemon, ya know?"

Oooh!! The sad one is like Max! Hi, Fluffy Max!

The young man - Fluffy Max, as Gregory was now calling him - jumped with a start as Gregory wordlessly shouted greetings in his direction. It was obvious that he'd heard the fire.

Max grinned at Minnie and motioned toward the pair. "These ‘ere are Edan ‘n Cora - and they were lookin' to join us while they go travelin' south towards Evenheim."